2.23 Loka to Aba

July 29, 2012

Mike sent me a photo from Omdurman.  He says it’s not the tomb of the mahdi but it does give a contemporary feel of the historic city.

Omdurman

Hayes is well past Omdurman in this segment, making his way across the Nile/Congo divide.

January 31 1914 – February 5,1914

On the last day of January 1914 Hayes’ small caravan arrives at “Libogo (stone),” a station atop a mountainous rock from which he can see across “a great expanse of rolling country” to other high hills marking the Congo-Nile divide.  By Libogo Hayes has learned to call “the concubine of the Englishman who lives beyond Yei” by her name, Maliboro.   He receives the typical offer, and issues his standard refusal:  “Maliboro… offers to throw [the Englishman] over and cast her lot with me in the Congo.  She is not unprepossessing in looks or manner, but she must stick to her first love.”  Perhaps he was less cynical when speaking to Maliboro in person.

After struggling half the night to cross the swollen Yei River, Hayes met a gentleman:  Colonel Dove of the Anglo-Egyptian Army.  “This man has some common sense, something usually lacking in army officers of any nation.”  Hayes failed to mention that officials at Rejaf had bound his shotgun with wire to prevent hunting.  Dove removed the wires from his gun and allowed Hayes to sensibly rearrange his porter’s loads.  Dove’s pragmatic efficiency “makes up for a lot of the boors like those out shooting on the way up the Nile.”

David Bruce

Tsetse fly was identified as the vector for sleeping sickness by David Bruce in 1903 – eleven years before Hayes passed through “a great sleeping sickness camp at Yei containing 450 patients.”  An arsenic based treatment developed in 1910 – with blindness as a considerable side effect – might have been in use at the camp.  The doctors say “there is hope” for many of the patients lightly infected.  Some of the more advanced cases “imagine they are hyenas or other wild animals and simulate these beasts in their actions.”  Others have entered “their last long sleep that can only end in death.  It may take a man three or four years to die, but die he will unless some check can be made by these medical men here.”  Hayes reports the presence of two types of tsetse flies in this region, one infecting domestic animals, the other humans.  He asserts as fact that “in a little while all these cattle in the transport will have been bitten and in due course die.”  A reader can’t help but wonder why he didn’t assert the same fact about himself.

Guinea worm tied to a match

Some patients at the camp at Yei suffered a parasitic guinea worm that makes its way to the foot after being introduced through drinking water. Hayes describes a treatment used in 1914, based on  “some strong solution” and a match, that pretty closely mirrors the 2007 photograph of treatment for guinea worm on wikipedia.

Maliboro came to Yei as “temporary wife” to Quentin Grogan brother to Ewart Grogan.  Of Quentin, Hayes writes:  “This man has a world-wide reputation as a hunter.  He was recently a guide to Theodore Roosevelt in the latter’s expedition to Africa on a great game hunt.”  Of Ewart, Hayes writes, he “was the first man to make the journey from Capetown to Cairo.”  Ewart Grogan undertook his trip up the continent for love, finishing in 1900, as has been recently re-enacted and chronicled by Julian Smith in Crossing the Heart of Africa.  

Hayes stayed a few days at the home of Quentin Grogan outside Yei at a station called Yagulu where he accounted Grogan’s ivory from the two elephants permitted in the Mongalla district:  “one weighing 111-111 pounds each, the other 125-134 pounds, or 481 pounds of ivory for two elephants.”  In addition, all officers at the post get two more elephants on a permit from Uganda, then pay the Belgians for two more in the Congo.  “… as ivory is $5 or $6 a pound … it adds materially to one’s salary and gives sport to the hunter.”  Perhaps this last remark is ironic?  Hayes immediately follows it with “This man is a great hunter.”

Hayes writes that Europeans commonly take temporary African wives, though Brits rarely acknowledge the practice openly.  Ever one to admire candor, Hayes writes of Quentin and Maliboro:  “He acknowledged her openly, something unusual for a Britisher.”  Through Hayes’ eyes all will be well:  “When he leaves the country , [Quentin] will reward her with many gifts and she will return to her people… [to] be sold by her parents to some native later, bear children and be an honored member of her community.”  Children from her temporary union with Quentin Grogan are unlikely because “Europeans do not breed freely in the tropics, else the country would be full of half castes.”  One reads no trace of irony in these credulous remarks.

On February 5, 1914 Hayes crossed from the Sudan into the Congo. Despite his glorious adventure down the Nile: “I now bid farewell to the hamrah and the regulation-ridden Sudan, and leave it gladly hoping never to see it again.”  Neither the British who govern the Sudan nor the Belgians in control of the Congo maintain a post at the border; the Brits remain 38 miles east at Yei, the Belgians 12 miles west of the divide at Aba.  Crossing the international border necessitated a change of porters. “A wild, excited crowd of 70 porters were waiting for loads when I rached this place (also called Libogo).”  An excessively observant Moslem Egyptian sub-officer annoyed Hayes with public prayers but the man’s  slight English helped Hayes arrange for a new group of porters.

The character of the land changed dramatically at the Congo-Nile divide:  thirsty and dry on the Nile side; lush and green on the Congo side. “We had not covered a half mile west of Libogo before there was a sparkling clear rivulet beside us, and here about Aba are great evergreen trees and every evidence of a more rainy region, far removed from that of the Nile.”  Aba was “once an important post, there being fine brick houses and other relics of what was once a town.”  When Hayes passed through only two European officers and several Greek traders remained plus “a German officer, ostensibly a collector of natural history for a Berlin museum, but in reality a political agent,” who seemed most intent on shooting elephants, six of them, “without regard for the law.”  The German claimed he’d been attacked but all of them were large tuskers “and in some way he has got them out of the county without paying full toll.”

Nothing to hold him at Aba.  Forward into the lush greenery of the Congo.

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2.22 Rejaf to Loka

July 22, 2012

Finally!  On caravan, with porters, creaking ox carts, askaris with rifles, rumors of Lions, tsetse fly, sleeping sickness… – Hayes is living the image of Africa formed when he was ten years old hearing stories of Livingstone, Stanley, and Emin Pasha on the banks of the Coquille River in Oregon.

The terrain map shows Hayes approaching the African continental divide about to enter the drainage of the Congo River.

January 24,1914 – January 30, 1914

On his last night steaming up the Nile Hayes wrote:  “Eighteen days from Khartoum, every one of them filled with vivid interest.  I have lived more in these past eighteen days than in a year in a sawmill at Eureka or in Oregon.”

During these glorious eighteen days he had to provision for himself.  “It has been largely dates bought before leaving Khartoum.  Also fruits picked from some sort of tree on the Nile plains below the Sobat, these a strong laxative, even for Arabs, who warned me.”  Never mind that – “Now for the bush in its fullness. I am glad to see it, eager to learn what lies beyond.”

For the first time Hayes writes of traveling with porters.  He makes no mention of who pays the men or how much, but he roundly criticizes “the Bimbashi or major commanding the post [who] would not permit me to divide my large boxes into small loads fit for porters up to the Congo, this being against regulations.”  From reading Hayes’ diary thus far, one feels certain the thought of a bribe to the Bimbashi never entered his mind.  “I was entwined in the mazes of red tape until there was no escape, almost had to stay here for two weeks because of some slip in further red tape at Khartoum,” where authorities had neglected to certify him free of sleeping sickness.

Among several letters sent from Studd and Buxton, who are “350 miles west of this place” at Niangara, Hayes received “a small Bangala vocabulary, more than welcome, for I know not one word.”

Alfred Buxton

Charles Thomas Studd

Hayes’ apparent readiness to cool his heels for two weeks in sleeping sickness quarantine while learning the bits of Bangala Buxton had sent called the bimbashi’s bluff:  “Castle-Smith, the bimbashi, said the Khartoum officials were to blame for the lack of proper credentials, so passed me through the quarantine and I am encamped at the first rest house a few miles west of Rejaf.”  Once “All English speaking people are behind me now,” what does one say in Bangala to the caretaker of a Sudanese rest house after hiking all day through the bush?  Hayes tries:  “Ngai alingi kosumba koko.” (Hayes’ quote)  Without comment the master of the house brought a small chicken.  Very pleased with himself, Hayes next asked “Piastre boni?” and paid “Moko” (one) for his dinner.   “This gives me great encouragement, for these meaningless words set down here are a medium of communication between me and these people.  I will not forget that expression, and will learn many more as I proceed.”

Castle-Smith relented on the quarantine but not on redistribution of the loads.  “My porters are old men and mere boys.  One of my loads weighs 67 pounds, too much for a strong man.”  In fact, “All of them are heavy and I may not open one to lighten their burdens.”  Hayes is in charge – “As the lone European, I have the papers for the caravan” – maybe he thought distribution of loads would be checked at a subsequent rest house.  Though Hayes never described the full extent of his caravan, it included several wagons “drawn by bullocks, two to each cart.  A man leads each team, another by his side with a gun.”  Hayes writes that he’ll endeavor to put the 67 pound overloaded pack onto one of the carts.  Also walking with the caravan “is a comely Bari girl” – more to be said about this “temporary wife… billed as ‘Mr. Grogan’s servant,'” later.

Tsetse Fly

On a “dry stage of six hours from Moongo (elegant) to Gangi (bamboo)” traveling by night to avoid the heat and the tsetse flies “that carry the dreaded sleeping sickness,” Hayes and his convoy dug clean water from the sands beside a dry khor and passed a rusting steam truck abandoned by the Belgians.  “Leopold did what he could to exploit this country of its easily negotiable riches before turning it over to the British, which had to be done at his death.  As porters were difficult to obtain, he sent in several of these gigantic machines.”  [Hayes correctly identifies Leopold as personally exploiting this region – the Congo colony was Leopold’s private property.  Hochschild cites scholars who estimate roughly half the population perished during Leopold’s Free State period between 1885 and 1909 – about 10 million people.  Not surprising that Hayes could find only children and old men as porters in 1914.]

Five days out from Rejaf approaching the continental divide between the drainage of the Nile and Congo rivers, the column passed out of territory where “elephants, a few rhinos, eland, topi, waterbuck and many more” hid from the noisy caravan in the scrub or dry grass into country “all granite ridges with great prophyritic (sic) dykes crosscutting the quartzite reefs striking across country.  The soil is very poor.”  The few people living in this region eat mainly “dhurra, a sort of millet that is very nourishing.  My men carry a  bag of dhurra flower, from which they make a ball of cooked dough each evening.”  Hayes says fowl cost only five cents American; he can also get soggy sweet potatoes and a little rice, “so I live well enough.”

At Loka “chief station on the way to Yei,” Hayes see the first running water since leaving Rejaf 64 miles previously.  He records the date as January 30, 1914 – so the caravan had been making a little better than 10 miles a day.  The officer in charge of the station at Loka, Captain Vandelaar, passed them through “without too much trouble,” but warned of lions on the trail ahead.  No sign of them but Hayes writes eloquently about the feel of traveling at night on watch for lions, on caravan, in the southern Sudan, in 1914:

“There is something barbaric about this hamrah, or caravan.  To see each askari with a lighted torch of close wrapped grass beside the man who leads two bullocks, the fire lighting up the long horns of the animals and shining on the gun barrels; to hear the creaking carts, the cries of the men and sometimes the sad wail of a hyena gives it a touch of Africa not understood otherwise.”